IBM Goes Goo-Goo for Gadgets

The consumerization of the enterprise is in full swing.

What began
in 2006 as a trickle of consumer-oriented web applications like podcasts and
gadgets making their way into the enterprise, has today become a veritable
torrent.

In what may be the signature moment of this consumer-enterprise mashup  in
2007, IBM  announced a deal with Google  today that will allow its customers to integrate Google
Gadgets into their WebSphere enterprise portal software application. Gadgets
are Web applications made for limited but sometimes sophisticated uses.

The deal means that corporate customers will be able to pick from nearly
4,000 Web-based services and utilities and add them to their personalized
portals. Those could include consumer-oriented applications like a Wikipedia
search utility or YouTube access, as well as cross-over applications that
could be used for both personal and business reasons, like language or
currency translators or podcast searches.

Corporate customers will also be able to integrate gadgets with
external-facing sites built on the WebSphere platform, such as a
package-tracking application for an e-commerce site or Wikipedia search for
a content site, to help improve the user experience on their sites.

The deal is also symbolic of a larger trend, which is what some analysts
refer to as the “consumerization of IT.”

Indeed, it wasn’t that long ago that business people started adding smiley
faces to clarify the tones of their e-mails. Emoticons have also become
standard fare as instant messaging makes its way into the enterprise. Now,
noted Lauren Wendel, IBM WebSphere portal manager, “there is a blurring of
the distinction between what you use at home or in your Internet experience
with the services you expect in your daily work experience.”

Companies typically try to prevent employees from doing personal chores
while on the job, and also want to ensure that their workforce doesn’t
download applications carrying malware  or services that could otherwise destabilize their infrastructure.

But Wendel said that allowing some of this experience to seep into the
workplace in a controlled manner might be a better way than trying to ban
them altogether.

She said that some customers are “looking at how portals can be used to
govern how those services can be used in useful ways… and integrate those
services ubiquitously where it makes sense within the business context,” she
told internetnews.com.

IDC analyst Sue Feldman agreed that the move gives companies the opportunity
to control which gadgets get implemented while providing some latitude to
employees.

“It’s adding an enterprise spin to something that’s getting pervasive
anyway,” she told internetnews.com.

Moreover, she said, the deal allows business owners to fetch applications
and mash them up to their portal without requiring them to embed the code.

Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT Research, agreed that
businesses look to invest in technology that works in predictable ways.
“There are incremental steps that tools like Google is offering that can
allow businesses to increase the capabilities of their IT infrastructure in
a pretty seamless way,” he told internetnews.com.

He noted that the deal not only helps IBM earn street cred with customers
looking to assuage their increasingly tech-savvy workforce, it also gives
Google the imprimatur of a heavyweight enterprise IT company.

“Getting the seal of approval from a partner like IBM is incredibly valuable
to Google, especially as they move into the enterprise,” he said.

Google vice president of search products and user experience Marissa Mayer
said the new mashup capability will allow enterprise customers to customize
experiences for both internal and external users. “Google gadgets will allow
IBM’s users to harness a wide range of rich and interactive content,” she
said in a statement.

In a December 2006 round-up with internetnews.com, Gartner analyst
Gene Phifer said that, of all the Web 2.0 technologies, the mashup may prove
to be the most interesting cross-over application.

Phifer said that while the most common mashups include some form of mapping
application and e-commerce-type store front, 2007 will be the year mashups
become a huge part of human resource departments to cross-reference employee
information.

He also said we could see mashups being used in supply chain management and
customer relationship management software to improve the way suppliers and
consumers work together.

Phifer predicted that vendors like IBM, Oracle  and
others will continue developing software tools that enable businesses to
create new ways of interacting with partners and customers.

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